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Feb 17

Syria: What happens now?

The last session of the second round of talks in Geneva lasted just 27 minutes — and ended with an apology from United Nations mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi.

"I am very, very sorry, and I apologize to the Syrian people that their hopes — which were very, very high that something will happen here," he said. "I apologize to them that on these two rounds, we have not helped them very much."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stonewalled the peace talks and would rather win "this on the battlefield rather than to come to the negotiating table with good faith."

"Assad himself is a magnet for terrorism," said Kerry. "He is the principal magnet of the region for attracting foreign fighters to Syria." Kerry added that the regime has intensified its assault on its civilian population with barrel bombs and starvation.

It was the United States and Russia that brought the warring parties in Syria to the negotiating table. Yet Kerry had harsh words for Russia on Monday, saying its military support for the Assad regime has enabled the government to double down, creating an enormous problem. 

2013 AFP

Kerry on Assad

"Assad himself is a magnet for terrorism. He is the principal magnet of the region for attracting foreign fighters to Syria."

— John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem pushed back, saying that it was the United States that had created what he called "a negative climate" for the talks. 

The opposition blamed the regime. "We are saying that the way the regime is negotiating is not leading to a result ... These negotiations are not going in any direction," said Syrian National Coalition spokesman Louay Safi.

More than 140,000 Syrians have died since the beginning of the civil war, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Nearly half of those killed were civilians, and 7,000 were children.

With a bleak humanitarian situation in the ancient city of Homs, U.N. emergency relief officials were able to evacuate more than 1,000 people. After more than a year of fighting, a fragile cease-fire allowed peacekeepers to guide women, children and disabled residents out of the city, where they had been caught in the middle of the brutal battle.

But thousands more remain behind, and the United Nations is requesting a continuation of the cease-fire in order to get much-needed food and supplies to the besieged city.

We are saying that the way the regime is negotiating is not leading to a result ... These negotiations are not going in any direction.

Louay Safi

spokesman, Syrian National Coalition

Opposition groups fighting to topple the Syrian government are fighting among themselves as well. On Monday the main group backed by the United States replaced its general for ineffectiveness and losing the confidence of the U.S. and its allies.

President Barack Obama spoke about the situation in Syria before the talks broke down. 

"We don’t expect to solve this anytime in the short term, so there are going to be some immediate steps that we have to take to help the humanitarian situation there," he said.

"There will be some intermediate steps that we can take to apply more pressure to the Assad regime, and we’re going to be continuing to work with all the parties concerned to try to move forward on a diplomatic solution."

A third round of talks on Syria have been promised, but no date has been set.

How will the breakdown in talks affect Syrian civilians?

Will the civil war rage on as before?

Did Geneva II make a difference?

This panel was assembled for the broadcast of “Inside Story.” 

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